We’ve roughly defined the mystic/magic philosophy that we will use in our game. In our world, there is a mystical power field that permeates the universe. We’re calling it “The Force” until we can come up with something better.
Clerics use this power to perform magic by meditating and letting the energy flow through them, using metaphysical discipline to “plug in” to it and channel it for their purposes. Druids use similar methods, but rather than meditating and using mind over body to access the mystic force, they commune with nature and use their understanding of life and the natural world to draw upon it.
Magic-users and illusionists, on the other hand, use science, physics, and mathematical formulae to tap into this force, siphoning off a small amount and harnessing it so they can force it to perform magic for them. It is not a partnership with the force like clerics and druids employ, but rather a method of exploiting its power.
There are beings who call themselves gods and goddesses, and people worship these beings. But they are really no more than very powerful monsters. Clerics may be affiliated with a religion, but that religion is not the source of their power.
We’re more or less sticking with the three-alignment system, but we’re switching the terminology a little to fit in with our worldview:
Light Side: These beings are most often good and generally lawful. Though not necessarily kind or even law-abiding, they will stand together if the final battle comes. Light Side characters are opposed to the Dark Side but they usually do not fight it on a daily basis.
Dark Side: These are usually not terribly nice and often quite evil. Dark Side characters are not always opposed to the Light Side characters, but their views of the world and how it should be run are self-centered and generally chaotic.
Unaligned: These beings are not on either the Light Side or the Dark Side. This does not mean they are in the middle. They are simply not on anyone else’s side. If the final battle comes, most of them will hide until it’s over.
This system is very much in keeping with my view of clerics as mystic warriors, though we do not allow them to use edged weapons.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that spell casters DO NOT need to pre-memorize spells. Time must be spent in study/meditation but any spell the caster knows can be cast at any time. The number of spells per day per level is unchanged, though a higher level slot can be used to cast a lower level spell if desired. To slightly offset the large advantage that this gives spell casters, casting the same spell more than once in a day requires a successful save vs. spells. Subsequent attempts are save at -2 for the third try, -4 for the fourth, and so on.
If the save fails, the spell does not work, but we haven’t decided if it uses up that slot for the day or not.
Also, clerics and druids have “known spells” just as magic-users and illusionists do, though they do not have spellbooks. Clerics simply have patterns in the Force that they recognize and meditate upon, while druids have rune-inscribed stones or pieces of wood that serve as their “spell book.” They usually carry these around on a leather loop.
Finding a new rune stone is how druids acquire new spells, or they can try to create their own rune stone for a spell they want to learn. Clerics learn new spells by finding them written down or are taught them by other clerics. I haven’t quite worked that out yet.